JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The University of Mississippi’s proposal to move a Confederate soldier monument from a central spot on the Oxford campus to a Confederate cemetery was approved Friday by trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
The cemetery is in a less prominent location on campus.
The move still needs to be approved by the board that governs Mississippi’s eight public universities.
The monument is one of many erected across the South more than a century ago. Critics say its display near the university’s main administrative building sends a signal that the school glorifies the Confederacy and glosses over the South’s history of slavery.
Pro-Confederate groups from outside the university rallied at the monument Feb. 23, causing Ole Miss basketball players to kneel during the national anthem, in protest of the rally. Student government leadersvoted March 5 to ask administrators to move the monument to the cemetery, where Confederate soldiers killed at the Battle of Shiloh are buried.
The University of Mississippi was founded in 1848, and the Confederate soldier statue was put up in 1906. The statue statue was a rallying point in 1962 for people who rioted to oppose court-ordered integration of the university.
The university has worked during the past two decades to distance itself from Confederate imagery, often amid resistance from tradition-bound donors and alumni. The nickname for athletic teams remains the Rebels, but the university retired its Colonel Reb mascot in 2003 amid criticism that the bearded old man looked like a plantation owner. In 1997, administrators banned sticks in the football stadium, which largely stopped people from waving Confederate battle flags. The marching band no longer plays “Dixie.”
Because of a student-led effort, the university in 2015 stopped flying the Mississippi flag, the last state flag in the U.S. to prominently feature the Confederate battle emblem.
Since 2016, the university has installed plaques to provide historical context about the Confederate monument and about slaves who built some campus buildings before the Civil War. A plaque installed at the base of the Confederate statue says that such monuments were built across the South decades after the Civil War, at a time that aging Confederate veterans were dying.
“These monuments were often used to promote an ideology known as the ‘Lost Cause,’ which claimed that the Confederacy had been established to defend states’ rights and that slavery was not the principal cause of the Civil War,” the plaque says. “… Although the monument was created to honor the sacrifice of Confederate soldiers, it must also remind us that the defeat of the Confederacy actually meant freedom for millions of people.”